tardy response to two questions

George Thompson GthomGt at CS.COM
Tue Nov 26 01:38:37 UTC 2002

Dear List,

I think that it was Calvert Watkins who characterized philology as "slow
reading."  Well, perhaps it will be accepted that my tardy responses to
recent list discussions are at least partially attributable to philological
concerns of the sort that Watkins had in mind, and not just to laziness or
irresponsibility.  Indeed, I am a very slow reader, in any case.

I sincerely apologize to Jean-Luc Chevillard for forgetting to respond to his
interesting question.  If it were not an interesting question I would have
answered promptly with some kind of generically 'correct' answer.
Fortunately, Madhav Deshpande and Peter Scharf have come to my rescue with
their typically thorough and incisive posts, to which I have nothing to add.
Of course, in Old Indo-Iranian there is no evidence for the technical
phonological sense for ghoSa that one starts to see first, I suppose [Madhav?
Peter?], in the prAtizAkhyas.

Perhaps I can make a seamless segue here to the topic of Iranians in ancient
India, etc.

The word ghoSa in Skt./gaoSa in Avestan [and the associated verbal forms] is
an Indo-Iranian isolate which must be supposed to be borrowed from a Central
Asian substrate language [see the recent article on such words by A.
Lubotsky].  Rgvedic attestations suggest that ghoSa can cover human speech
and animal vocalizations as well.  It also covers the sound of thunder, soma
stones, chariots, the stamping of the feet in dance, as well as the obscure
articulations of the gods.  But in fact it also has the sense 'ear', as is
shown by Avestan gaoSa, as well as Skt. compounds like azvaghoSa.  I have in
preparation a paper on "The Language of *daEuuas*", which basically asserts
that that language was Vedic; that is, that there was some measure of mutual
knowledge between speakers of Avestan and speakers of Vedic, in the old days
after the linguistic divide . Those people referred to in the RV as *a'deva*
or *devani'd* were in some cases Iranians, and Mazdayasnians.  Likewise whose
people who were known in Avestan as *daevayasna* were in some cases Vedic.
The evidence for this needs to be sorted out, and I intend to correlate this
with Lubotsky's proposal for a Central Asian substratum.

The well-known motif that one finds in Late Avestan that distinguishes
between an Ahuric lexicon [with positive connotations] and a Daevic lexicon
[with negative connotations] seems to correlate, at times, with the lexicon
of words derivable from the substrate language proposed by Lubotsky.  Since
we've been talking about ears, let us consider these ear-words:

The Ahuric word 'uS-' has many IE cognates, including Eng. 'ear', Grk 'ous',
Lat. 'auris', etc.  But no Sanskrit cognate.

The Daevic word kar at na on the other hand does have a Skt cognate 'karNa', but
it lacks a sure IE etymology.  It appears in Lubotsky's list of inherited

Then there's gaoSa [= Vedic ghoSa], referring mostly to Ahuric ears, except
for kauruuO-gaoSa "bald-eared" of the god of drought, ApaoSa.   Lacking a
good IE etymology, it appears in Lubotsky's list of words borrowed from this
substrate language

Furthermore, there is the insight that can be gotten from the study of
onomastics.  When we consider the many  contributions of Michael Witzel to
these questions, we must acknowledge that he has led the way into the study
of Vedic onomastics, in the footsteps of his teachers K. Hoffmann and F.B.J.
Kuiper.  These are the proper inflluences, strictly philological, on him,
instead of the bizarrely uninformed suggestions of Sumit Guha that he has
been influenced by some Jungian Aryanism.  Besides Witzel's many articles and
those of Hoffmann, the monographs on Iranian onomastics by M. Mayrhofer and
R. Schmitt should be consulted.  Some onomastic examples: tuSAspa in Indic
can only be an Iranian name, because the final member -aspa, 'horse' can only
be Iranian.  Likewise, the Iranian name dAztAgni must be an Indic name
because the final member -agni, can only be Indic.

In conclusion, the point is this: in conjunction with the archaeological
researches of F. Hiebert, C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, et al., the philological
work of M. Witzel, et al, reveals the outlines of an extraordinarily rich
exchange of several cultures of early Central and South Asia in early
Indo-Iranian texts.  The crude distinctions of earlier generations must be
abandoned. The careful distinctions of recent philology must be embraced.

Best wishes,

George Thompson

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list